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Small Town and Village in Bavaria

Small Town and Village in Bavaria: The Passing of a Way of Life

Peter H. Merkl
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Small Town and Village in Bavaria
    Book Description:

    At the center of this investigation is the great modernization effort of a West German state, Bavaria, in the 1970s and 1980s, by means of a reform of the smaller units of local government. The reforms were meant to abolish all autonomous local governments serving populations of fewer than 3,000, thereby reducing the number of local governments in Bavaria from more than 7,000 to less than 2,000. Based on interviews, surveys, and statistical research, this study chronicles fifteen communities and their challenges, developments, and social changes from post-1945 up to the present. While this book explores the decline of the iconic village community, it also reveals the survival of medieval towns in a contemporary world, and despite the modern desire for comprehensive and well-integrated services, there remains a seemingly perennial appeal of small town and village life.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-348-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    At the center of this investigation is the great modernization effort of a West German state, Bavaria, in the 1970s and 1980s by means of a reform of the smaller units of local government. It began with an ambitious scheme to reorder local and county (Kreis) territorial boundaries and, most controversially, the pecking order among small and larger communities. In particular, the reformers wanted to eliminate the autonomy of all units smaller than a population of two thousand inhabitants and subordinate them to larger centers that could support modern local administration—in a state where the vast majority of local...

  6. Chapter 1 Changing Villages and Small Places in Bavaria
    (pp. 9-49)

    Bavaria is a land of villages and small towns, quite different from the contemporary United States and therefore not so easily understood by Americans unaccustomed to European anthropology. What is a village (Dorf) in the Bavarian context? What is a town (Stadt)? Not so many years ago, a traveler might encounter quite a variety of small and seemingly self-sufficient entities in rural Bavaria. Some of the smallest were calledEinödeorWeile.The wordEinödehad connotations of desolation and loneliness and usually denoted a farm surrounded by its own fields, miles from the next village to which it might formally belong. Sometimes,...

  7. Chapter 2 The Small-town or Village Community
    (pp. 50-100)

    The social changes of the small-town and rural scene that we have explored so far, of course, are not unique to Middle Franconia or Bavaria, but have been occurring throughout Western industrialized countries. Striking effects have been caused by such mechanisms as motorization and economic development, particularly international competition (such as in the European Common Market) and the rising curve of national wages and consumer expectations. Their most significant impact, however, is sociocultural: The widening of horizons of individuals and community, powerful if not always very explicit, and the loosening of community ties, a kind of urbanization of the minds...

  8. Chapter 3 Planning Local Territorial Reform
    (pp. 101-129)

    How do large organizations such as a multi-tiered state bring about large, sweeping changes? Whether from the top or the bottom, the time has to be right. The desire for change must be in the air. But there also has to be a body of theories to guide the reformers.

    The 1960s and early 1970s in West Germany witnessed an era of internal reforms. There was a pervasive feeling that the arduous task of rebuilding the country after the destruction and deprivations of World War II and the postwar years had been completed. The hungry postwar years were over and...

  9. Chapter 4 The Implementation of the Reform
    (pp. 130-162)

    They came at three in the morning in two trucks full of uniformed men with side arms at the ready. Several county (Kreis) officials stood by in the dull light of the early hours as the doors of the old village Rathaus of Wolpertingen (not its real name) were broken and forced open. They rifled desks and jimmied the locks on the doors of a bookcase. Finally they removed all the records and accounts of the small rural commune, loaded them into their vehicles, and left before the dawn was breaking upon a handful of stunned villagers awakened by the...

  10. Chapter 5 No Town is an Island
    (pp. 163-205)

    In historical perspective, the great Bavarian local government reform represents a final step in the centuries-long process of territorial integration of the Bavarian state, not counting its earlier history. The process began in the eighteenth century when Bavaria was still an Electoral Princedom (Kurfürstentum) of the Holy Roman Empire and consisted merely of Old Bavaria, roughly the areas of Upper and Lower Bavaria and the Palatinate, which it had acquired a century earlier. Small towns and villages such as our fifteen West Middle Franconian communities still were independent or belonged to other German states, such as the Kingdom of...

  11. Chapter 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 206-234)

    “There is now an active concern for the viability of the small town and small towners. In part, that concern may be in reaction to the big city and large scale bureaucracies—private and public—that have come to dominate American life. The revitalization of small communities is part of the general search for smallness, simple (appropriate) technology, alternative lifestyles, and environmental conservation.”¹

    For some decades now, Americans have worried about the decline and death of the small town and rural center² although our definitions of such units tend to vary.³ American communities with a population under twenty-five hundred make...

  12. Appendix. Tables A1–A15
    (pp. 235-245)
  13. Select BIbliography and Government Documents
    (pp. 246-254)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 255-263)